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“Adio Kerido” In Memoriam:
Samuel G. Armistead, 1927–2013

With the passing of Samuel G. Armistead we have lost a luminary in the field of medieval Spanish literature, a pioneer in the field of Judeo-Spanish literature and culture, an infinitely kind and generous mentor and a meticulous, original, erudite, courteous scholar and man. Many of us knew Sam personally and have stories of his generosity, good humor, love of animals, and passion for saving and singing Judeo-Spanish ballads. He was the best of mentors, colleagues and friends and the model scholar.

Armistead worked with some of the great figures of twentieth-century medieval Hispanism, including Ramón Menéndez Pidal, Diego Catalán, Manuel Alvar, and Maria Rosa Menocal. But it is his series of monographs and sixty years of work on the Judeo-Spanish ballad tradition –during which he spent decades with his friend and colleague, Joe Silverman interviewing informants in the United States, Spain, Israel, Morocco, Portugal, and other sites across the world–of which he was most proud and that he seems to have enjoyed the most. [End Page 5]

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Samuel G. Armistead in his home office with his cat, Aysha. 2012.

This project, to collect and preserve Judeo-Spanish ballads and culture –and through that, in a small way, the songs and culture of fifteenth-century Spain that itself goes back to earlier times– allowed Sam to do what he loved best, work and spend time with real live people. As he stated in a 2011 article, “Working with books is great fun, and I do plenty of that, but working with people is even better (most of the time) and often more interesting” (“Half a Century” 101). This talent for working with people of all nationalities and linguistic, religious and social backgrounds is for our (or any) profession unusual, and he excelled at it.

With his pioneering work on the Judeo-Spanish ballad in its multiple manifestations, Sam not only advanced the study of the medieval Spanish [End Page 6] epic and ballad, but also created a space in what had been a field primarily concerned with national (Spanish) origins for a wider, more expansive vision of a pan-Hispanic literature and culture. To this end Armistead documented the survival and transformation of Spanish cultural production in the Diaspora –in Israel, Morocco, the Balkans, and in the United States, from Los Angeles, Seattle, New York and Philadelphia to the remote isleño, bruli and adaeseño communities of Louisiana and East Texas– offering a testament to both the continued creativity and the notable conservatism that repeatedly destabilized any fixed academic notion of a Spanish literature defined by ethnic, geographical and even linguistic borders of the nation. This broader perspective and openness allowed generations of scholars to approach and study a “Spanish literature” that was much more than Castilian texts written on the Iberian Peninsula and that could be expressed in any of the languages of the Peninsula or the Disapora, from Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, Ladino, Basque, or Galician, to Lousiana isleño. Sam, time and time again, in his over 500 (and counting) publications carefully and meticulously showed beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was and is room in the vast enterprise of “Iberian cultural production” that we each study from our respective areas of expertise for the multiplicity of languages, ethnicities and religious orientations that Sam and his many collaborators explored, explained and documented over the course of some 60 years.1 Sam connected the various, at times seemingly independent traditions mentioned above, building of course on the shoulders of his own mentors –among them most notably Américo Castro and Paul Bénichou.2 [End Page 7]

For Sam the act of singing ballads was much more than an entertaining pastime: it was a willful act of preserving the past for future generations. The oral tradition he studied and brought to light was an important testament not only to the Spanish past, but also to the socio-historical realities of the Diaspora, and perhaps most importantly a testimony to the shared, active enterprise that is the performance of traditional material—a type of shared cultural experience very much at odds with the dominant forms of modern entertainment. Sam contextualized his work collecting and studying the Spanish epic and ballad traditions as part of a much larger global phenomenon of relevance not just to scholars of Spanish literature but to all of us, and especially to future generations:

We speakers of English lost our living ballad tradition a couple of generations ago, as did most other Europeans. What we still hear, in the declining oral tradition of Hispanic peoples, is, in effect, a common European ballad tradition, shared by all of us during many centuries. This is something our ancestors participated in, in the past, and something we have all now lost or are losing. But it is important to preserve it; it transmits, I believe, an important message for the future. As we enter a new century, our forms of entertainment are becoming ever more passive, less participatory; we are entertained, but what goes on is mostly not of our doing. We have not helped to create it. These songs that spring from cohesive, traditional communities in which everyone knew and actively participated, potentially, in their performance, offer us an important example, an important, more creative alternative for our future. They project a strong sense of community – another traditional concept that we also seem to be in the process of losing, at least in contemporary America. The ballads will disappear. Now, after six or seven centuries, it seems to be their inevitable destiny. We cannot now tell how our irrepressible human creativity may be channeled in the future. But to have, at hand, such a record, such a testimony, to how we once sang, created, and recreated poetry, over centuries of oral tradition, will, I believe, stand us in very good stead. This is invaluable poetic material, going back to our ancient ancestors, even perhaps to those of our prehistoric past; what we were long ago is still, I believe, potentially very much a part of what we are today and, on into the future, will still be a part of what we have been. And [End Page 8] this, I believe, gives added meaning to the rich collection of songs I have studied and helped to bring together, with my colleagues, over the past sixty years, and, hopefully, have saved for the future.

This appreciation of past cultural production and its value for future generations began well before his path-breaking studies on the Hispanic ballad, in his youth, growing up on a farm in Maryland, collecting stories from the son of former slaves, Charles Cook, whom Sam described as a “sage, master, carpenter, and one of the finest individuals I have been privileged to know” (“Brer Rabbit” 442). Such a description applies equally to Sam, to whom his often irascible teacher and mentor, Américo Castro, gave the epithet in Spanish of “el bueno.”

Sam’s unfailingly positive spirit and kind nature led to successful collaboration with a veritable army of colleagues and informants, most notably Joseph H. Silverman, with whom, as discussed in detail below, Sam co-published some 124 books and articles.3 Other scholars with whom Armistead undertook more than one study, the “repeat offenders” so to speak, include the musicologist Israel J. Katz, whose PhD dissertation Sam oversaw in 1967, and who provided the musical transcriptions for over 20 co-published studies; James T. Monroe for some seven studies on the jarchas and other cases in which the Romance and Arabic traditions intersected; Jacob Hassán on the Spanish ballad tradition; Hiram Gregory on the linguistic features of the Hispanic culture of Louisiana; and, of course, his technical editor for the past 31 years, Karen Olson, who with great care meticulously proofed (and continues to proof) and, more amazingly, keep up with and impose order upon, the sea of research materials, publications, and correspondence that Sam seemed to generate without cease. In addition, the many informants from whom Sam collected ballads, information on the tradition, in both oral interviews and in the form of hand written and print collections (including Luna Farache, Esther Varsano Hassid, Yacob Abraham Yoná, Irvan Pérez, [End Page 9] and Chelito Campo among many others), were for Sam fellow collaborators in the larger goal of saving the last vestiges of the Hispanic ballad.4

In his tenure at various American universities, first as assistant and associate professor at UCLA (1957–67), then as a professor at Purdue (1967–68), and at the University of Pennsylvania (1968–82), and for the last 30 years, at the University of California, Davis, Sam oversaw almost 70 PhD theses, and mentored countless other scholars. Among the dissertations he directed or for which he was a reader (among them my own in 2001), were several of his future collaborators, including Israel J. Katz, Oro Anahory Librowicz, Suzanne Petersen, and Manuel da Costa Fontes, as well as many of the hispanomedievalists and experts in Spanish literature who have taught or are currently teaching in the US, including Maria Menocal, David Wacks, Sarah Portnoy, Michèle Cruz-Sáenz, John Zemke, Tom Lathrop, Joe Ricapito, Nancy Joe Dyer, Rina Benmayor, Harvey Sharrer, Harriet Goldberg, and in the case of Hilary Pomeroy in England.5 We all benefited from his seemingly endless generosity, which often took the form of large packets with copies of difficult-to-find articles, sections of books, and/or his own carefully constructed class handouts or notes –packets he compiled late at night and mailed first thing in the morning– as well as far-ranging and intellectually stimulating phone calls, also lengthy and usually made late at night. He treated young scholars –graduate students and beginning assistant professors– with the same respect and courtesy he gave distinguished and [End Page 10] established full professors.

Prof. Armistead was unfailingly equanimous and equitable in his treatment of people, generous with his time and practical in his advice –a model for those of us in the profession now. Sam Armistead is perhaps the only scholar I have ever known (even through reputation) whose personal goodness– he was in every sense of the word a mensch –seems to have as much fame as his scholarly accomplishments. Sam’s almost inhuman research productivity and consummate professionalism was often eclipsed by his now legendary warm-hearted, self-effacing humor, generosity and affection. So many of us who had the pleasure of knowing him have a cherished story (or two) about Sam– Sam singing a romance, Sam quoting a Yiddish proverb, Sam reciting the first lines of the Cantar de Mío Cid, Sam and his lifelong collaborator, Joe Silverman calling informants on the phone, Sam making sure our daughters/friends/colleagues be safe walking to their car, Sam conversing with his Moroccan cab driver about how best to prepare kifta, Sam and Annie Laurie over for Seder . . . and so many more, as is to be expected from someone who relished interacting with people and who enjoyed such a long and prolific life. Sam took the time to talk to us all, to recognize and treat everyone with respect –whether we worked within the profession, or were among those with whom his daily life and the profession brought him into contact– taxi drivers, administrative assistants, students, informants, the janitorial staff, etc. and even (or especially) those non-human companions who sympathetically accompanied him as he worked hours, days, weeks, months and years on his many articles, monographs and book series.

Saving the Pan-Hispanic Ballad

Armistead and Silverman, in the studies they have published over the last 52 years, often with the collaboration of Israel J. Katz, showed (and continue to show) in meticulously documented detail that the Judeo-Spanish ballad tradition is a long-lived transnational literary and cultural phenomenon intimately connected to socio-historical forces, ranging from personal identity in Diaspora and the vicissitudes of daily life to the more nefarious [End Page 11] consequences of systematic persecution.6 Armistead and Silverman collected over 1500 Judeo-Spanish ballads over the course of some 23 years (from 1957–80) from some 239 informants, first in Los Angeles, Seattle, Philadelphia, New York and various other American cities, and then in Israel and Morocco (“Judeo-Spanish Traditional Literature”; Tres calas 115–19). In addition to the poems, songs and other material collected in oral interviews, the duo was responsible for bringing to light innumerable written texts, such as the romances preserved in Judeo-Spanish manuscripts and early printed chapbooks from various Balkan Jewish communities, including Salonika and the island of Rhodes, as well as from North African Jewish communities such as that of Tangiers.

With the blessing of Menéndez Pidal, who wrote a prologue to the first book-length study the two published together, Diez romances hispánicos, in which he contextualizes their work, still in its beginning stages, in the larger pan-Hispanic ballad tradition, and underscores its value for scholars of Spanish Literature (“Gran cosa es esta publicación de la colección rodiense del siglo XVIII para la historia de la tradición sefardí y muy útil sera la publicación, que esperamos sea próxima, de las 600 versiones que ustedes poseen”), the two embarked on the series of publications that would define both their careers (Prólogo 9).7

Beginning in 1962 and continuing to the present the two have published a series of book-length studies on both the oral tradition and written records of it, including the volumes of the Folk Literature of the Sephardic Jews (FLSJ) series. The inaugural volume was their study of Yacob Yoná’s chapbooks (1971). Currently there are six volumes in the series. Thus far the volumes of the FLSJ series also include the second volume, Judeo-Spanish [End Page 12] Ballads from Oral Tradition, Epic Ballads (1986); Vol. 3: Carolingian Ballads 1: Roncesvalles (1994); Vol. 4: Carolingian Ballads, 2: Conde Claros (2008); Vol. 5: Carolingian Ballads, 3: Gaiferos (2005); Vol. 6: Carolingian Ballads, 4: Montesinos. The latter volume is currently in the final stages of proofing, and Karen Olson and Juan de la Cuesta anticipate bringing out the subsequent volume, 7: Carolingian Ballads, 5: Moriana and Celinos in the near future. The tantalizing titles of the subsequent volumes that Armistead and Silverman envisioned rounding out the FLJS series (included in the fly leaf of Vol. 3, and later somewhat revised) include: Prisoners and Captives; Unhappy Love; The Adultress; Female Killers—Rape and Abduction; Seductions; and Amorous Adventures—Deception. After the death of Silverman in 1989, Sam continued to publish co-authored studies based on their some 35 years of joint work (23 involved in the actual collection of ballads) among the Sephardim, including several articles and the last four volumes of the FLSJ series.8

In the volumes of the FLSJ series and in their several studies on surviving written and printed editions of Sephardic ballads, such as the chapbooks of Yacob Yoná, a manuscript of Salomon Israel Cherezli (Tres calas; “Judeo-Spanish Ballads in a MS”), another of Yakov Hazán (Tres calas), the ballads collected in New York by Meir Bernadete (Judeo Spanish Ballads from New York) and Zarita Nahón (with Franz Boas) (Romances judeo-españoles de Tánger) and others (including Diez romances hispánicos, Seis romancerillos de cordel, Judeo-Spanish Ballads from Bosnia, and En torno), Armistead and Silverman documented the culture of the Sephardim first in the Balkans and then in Morocco –cultures and traditions lost because of World War II and, in the case of the Balkans, communities destroyed as part of the Holocaust. This material, whether in the form of written or printed documents or oral accounts culled from memory, although displaced and [End Page 13] often far from its original performance context, continued to hold great meaning for members of these communities and for others. Armistead and Silverman were recognized in various ways for their work preserving the culture of the pre-war Balkan and North African Jewish communities. In 1994 they were awarded the National Jewish Book Award in Folklore and Anthropology. A year later Armistead was awarded a medal in recognition of his work in Sephardic Studies from the University of Tel Aviv, followed by the same from Bar-Ilan University in 1997.9 Their series of studies made this material visible to scholars of Spanish literature and revealed that Spanish cultural production could have a variety of forms and transmitters, and that it extended well beyond the borders of the Spanish nation and its former colonies.

While recognized today as the father of Judeo-Spanish ballad and folk studies, Armistead’s solo work extended beyond the Judeo-Spanish tradition to the Hispanic ballad, including an exploration of the romancero’s survival in the remote communities of Louisiana and East Texas. The latter work (including Spanish Tradition in Louisiana; “Spanish Riddles”; “Hispanic Traditional Poetry in Louisiana”; “Hispanic Folk Literature among the Isleños”) is a natural outgrowth of his interest in Spanish literature and of what he and Silverman had discovered and witnessed regarding the survival and transformation of Judeo-Spanish ballads and folk culture. Beginning in 1975 and continuing into the 1980s, Sam independently collected some 82 hours of Hispanic folk material, including fragments of romances and several décimas, “a local tradition of narrative songs,” in Louisiana and East Texas (Spanish Tradition in Louisiana 12). Sam’s work among the isleño Hispanic linguistic community of Louisiana was featured in the 1983 documentary, Mosquitoes and High Water (Alvarez), and his recording of Irvan Pérez’s [End Page 14] décima, “La vida de un jaibero” is included on the Smithsonian Folkways audio collection, The Mississippi River of Song. Sam’s work has contributed to a revitalization of Isleño culture and identity and in no small measure helped to preserve it for future generations and to call attention to it in the Anglophone world where it was for many years invisible.

Scholarly Debates and Oral Tradition

Armistead’s (and Silverman’s) research on the Spanish ballad tradition and its survival in the living if increasingly moribund tradition confirmed several of the phenomena (including fragmentation, latent state, the collective author [autor-legión] and survival in variants) that Menéndez Pidal hypothesized had been present in and acting upon the transmission of Iberian epics and ballads for centuries if not millennia, and explained how elements of the lost epic had survived in altered form until today. These phenomena, found throughout the ballads that Sam collected over the course of the second half of the twentieth century, figured centrally in a major scholarly debate among hispanomedievalists, namely that between neo-individualists such as Colin Smith, Alan Deyermond, Raymond Willis, and others who, following in the footsteps of the French critic Joseph Bédier, maintained that the epic (in the case of Spain, the Cid and the Mocedades) and the subsequent related ballads were essentially literary texts written by learned clerics, lawyers or other intellectuals, but were not, as Menéndez Pidal had proposed and subsequent scholars such as Armistead, Diego Catalán, Manuel Alvar and others maintained, the product of an oral, anonymous tradition that continues to develop and change, but that also maintains some elements of the medieval past. These neo-individualist critics discounted the oral tradition as well as the theories of Menéndez Pidal and the so-called “neotraditionalists.” Sam’s vast body of work on the pan-Hispanic oral tradition provides an eloquent refutation of the neo-individualist position, but a few studies are noteworthy interventions on the topic, for example, the detailed presentation of independent variants of the Mocedades appearing at different times and places (including, among others, of course, in the Judeo-Spanish ballad tradition) found in the 1978 “The Mocedades de Rodrigo and Neo-Individualist Theory” or the 1987–88 study positing the use of rhetoric by [End Page 15] popular jongleurs, “Schoolmen or Minstrels?” as well as the case studies laid out in several volumes in the FLSJ series, including Epic Ballads and the Carolingian Ballads volumes.

Another of the major scholarly debates in which Sam engaged had to do with the nature of the jarchas and whether they could be considered among the earliest examples of the Romance lyric of Iberia. Armistead published a series of articles, several co-authored with the Arabist and fellow student of Castro, James T. Monroe, in response to various studies by Alan Jones, Richard Hitchcock and others claiming that the Romance verses at the end of the Arabic muwashshahat (recorded in Arabic characters) were not in fact poetic verses in an early form of Romance vernacular, but instead had perfectly intelligible Arabic readings. Sam pointed out those features that firmly located both the muwashshahat and their jarchas within the Iberian oral tradition, underscoring the strophic nature of the muwashshahat, that in turn dictates the rhyme of the final verses (a.k.a jarchas). The rhyme of the larger poem can in many cases serve as a guide to the vocalization of the final words as recognizably Romance terms. In addition, Sam showed that other terms, such as mama, fit into the larger poetic norms and patterns of the Iberian tradition, refuting many of the proposed Arabic readings proposed by Jones, Hitchcock and others. Most importantly, Sam pointed us to the jarchas preserved in Hebrew, that in some cases, use the same verses found in the Arabic, as an example of an independent testimony to the circulation of these Romance verses within a wider corpus of lyric texts (just as he had shown the Judeo-Spanish ballad tradition did for the Spanish epic) (“A Brief History”). Sam’s response to those who saw the jarchas as Arabic phrases independent of the Romance vernacular poetic tradition took the form of a series of articles with playful titles based on the proposed (and in Sam’s opinion erroneous) Arabic readings of the Romance terms used in the jarchas or the critics’ mistaken readings, including: “Speed or Bacon?”; “Albas, Mammas, and Code-Switching”; “Beached Whales and Roaring Mice”; and “Pet Theories and Paper Tigers.” While these debates involved sometimes bitter attacks on Sam’s work and even merit as a scholar, his typical response –the way he presented it time and time again to graduate [End Page 16] students– was a simple “Give me a break!” Today many of us lucky enough to teach medieval Spanish literature now teach the jarchas as evidence of the first recorded evidence of a Peninsular lyric in Romance, thanks also in part to the work of Sam’s student Maria Menocal, who continued to explore the intersection and development of Iberian poetry in the shadow of the Andalusi tradition. Armistead’s work on the jarchas, like his carefully laid out studies illustrating time and time again the survival of epic material in the living oral tradition of the pan-Hispanic ballad tradition, further establish him as one of the leading figures of twentieth-century Spanish cultural studies.

Sam often told us that while he had no biological children, his students were his adoptive children. His life’s work was dedicated to preserving past modes of cultural expression, saving them from oblivion and making sure they were decipherable for future generations. As his colleagues and former students, we in small ways carry on with his work, and we not only have his numerous studies to assist us, but also other sources that will facilitate continuing the work he began and that he always envisioned being a much larger, multi-generational, project that, because at its heart it was based on and expressed through the living, oral tradition, would (hopefully) never be defined by a terminus ad quem. The digital Folk Literature of the Sephardic Jews site ( created by Bruce Rosenstock and in which the recordings of and studies of Armistead, Silverman and Katz on the Judeo-Spanish folk tradition will prove an excellent and easily accessible resource for these endeavors.10 In addition, negotiations are underway to ensure Sam’s archive and library stay intact and accessible to scholars of future generations. [End Page 17]

Michelle M. Hamilton
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Samuel G. Armistead Bibliography

Alvarez, Louis dir. Mosquitoes and High Water: El Mosco y el Aqua Alta. Center for New American Media (CNAM), 1983. Film.
Armistead, Samuel G. “A Brief History of Kharja Studies.” Hispania 70. 1 (1987): 8–15. JSTOR Web. 13 Nov. 2013. <>.
———. “Hispanic Folk Literature among the Isleños of Louisiana.” Perspectives on Ethnicity in New Orleans. Eds. John Cook and Mackie J.-V. Blanton. New Orleans: Committee on Ethnicity, 1981. 21–31.
———. “Hispanic Traditional Poetry in Louisiana.” El Romancero hoy: Nuevas fronteras. Eds. A. Sánchez Romeralo, D. Catalán, and S. G. Armistead. Madrid: Cátedra-Seminario Menéndez Pidal-U of California, 1979. 147–58.
———. “Judeo-Spanish Traditional Literature: Half a Century of Fieldwork and Scholarship.” European Judaism 44.1 (2011). EBSCO Web. 19 Nov. 2013.
———. “The Mocedades de Rodrigo and Neo-Individualist Theory.” Hispanic Review 46 (1978): 313–27. JSTOR Web. 28 Nov. 2013 <>.
———. “Pet Theories and Paper Tigers: Trouble with the Kharjas.” La Corónica 14:1 (1985–1986): 55–70.
———. “Schoolmen or Minstrels?: Rhetorical Questions in Epic and Balladry.” La Corónica 16: 1 (1987–1988): 43–54.
———. “Spanish Riddles from St. Bernard Parish.” Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 5.3 (1983): 1–8.
———. “Spanish Epic and Hispanic Ballad: The Medieval Origins of the Corrido.” Western Folklore 64:1 and 2 (2005): 93–108. JSTOR Web. 20 Nov. 2013.
———. “Two Brer Rabbit Stories from the Eastern Shore of Maryland.” Journal of American Folklore 84 (1971): 442–44.
———. “Speed or Bacon? Further Meditations on Professor Alan Jones’ ‘Sun Beams.’” La Corónica 10:2 (1981–1982): 148–155.
Armistead, Samuel G. and Manuel da Costa Fontes. “Three Azorean Ballads from the Mss of Joanne B. Purcell.” La Corónica 22.2 (1993–1994): 52–60.
Armistead, Samuel G. and Israel J. Katz. The Spanish Tradition in Louisiana. Newark, De.: Juan de la Cuesta, 1992.
Armistead, Samuel G., Oro A. Librowicz, and J. H. Silverman. “El rey don García de Galicia y Portugal en un romance sefardí de Marruecos.” La Corónica 12.1 (1983–1984): 107–12. [End Page 18]
———. “El rey don García en el romancero: Un nuevo testimonio.” La Corónica 14.2 (1985–1986): 293–95.
———. Romances judeo-españoles de Tánger (recogidos por Zarita Nahón). Madrid: Cátedra-Seminario Menéndez Pidal, 1977.
Armistead, Samuel G., Selma Margaretten, Paloma Montero, Ana Valenciano and Israel J. Katz. El romancero judeo-español en el Archivo Menéndez Pidal (Catálogo-Indice de romances y canciones). 3 vols. Madrid: Cátedra-Seminario Menéndez Pidal, 1978.
Armistead, Samuel G., and James T. Monroe. “Albas, Mammas, and Code-Switching in the Kharjas: A Reply to Keith Whinnom.” La Corónica 11.2 (1982–1983): 174–207.
———. “Beached Whales and Roaring Mice: Additional Remarks on Hispano-Arabic Strophic Poetry.” La Corónica 13.2 (1984–1985): 206–42.
———. “Celestina’s Muslim Sisters.” Celestinesca 13.2 (1989): 3–27. Print.
———. “J.-Sp. puertas de rey(es) ‘royal courts.’” Sefarad 58 (1998): 227–41.
———. “Mjs moros mortaricaca: Arabic Phrases in the Poema de Alfonso XI (Strophe 1709b–d).” La Corónica 17. 2 (1988–1989): 38–43.
———. “A New Version of La Morica de Antequera.” La Corónica 12.2 (1983–1984): 228–40.
Armistead, Samuel G., James T. Monroe and J. H. Silverman. “Was Calixto’s Grandmother a Nymphomaniac Mamlk Princess? (A Footnote on ‘Lo de tu abuela con el ximio’ [La Celestina, Aucto 1]).” eHumanista 14 (2010): 1–23. Web. 28 Nov. 2013 <>
Armistead, Samuel G., Antonio Sánchez Romeralo and Suzanne H. Petersen. Bibliografía del Romancero oral, 1. Bibliography of The Hispanic Ballad in Oral Tradition, 1. Madrid: Cátedra-Seminario Menéndez Pidal, 1980.
Armistead, Samuel G., and Joseph H. Silverman. Diez romances hispánicos en un manuscrito sefardí de la Isla de Rodas. Pisa: Istituto di Letteratura Spagnola e Ispano-americana dell’Università di Pisa, 1962.
———. “Dos romances fronterizos en la tradición sefardí oriental.” Nueva Revista de Filología Hispánica 12 (1959): 88–98.
———. En torno al romancero sefardí: Hispanismo y balcanismo de la tradición judeo-española. Madrid: Seminario Menéndez Pidal, 1982.
———. “Epopeya y Romancero: El sueño de doña Alda en la tradición moderna.” Scripta Philologica in Honorem Juan M. Lope Blanch. 3 [End Page 19] vols. Mexico City: U Autónoma de México, 1992. 3: 79–88.
———. The Judeo-Spanish Ballad Chapbooks of Yacob Abraham Yoná. Berkeley-Los Angeles: U of California P, 1971.
———. “Judeo-Spanish Ballads in a MS by Salomon Israel Cherezli.” Studies in Honor of M.J. Benardete, Eds. Izaak A. Langnas and Barton Sholod. New York: Las Américas, 1965. 367–87.
———. “A Judeo-Spanish Prayer.” La Corónica 19.1 (1990–1991): 22–31.
———. “Nueve adivinanzas de Estambol (Colección Milwitzky).” Sefarad 58.1 (1998): 31–60.
———. Preface. Romanceiro Português dos Estados Unidos, II: Califórnia. By Manuel da Costa Fontes. Coimbra: U of Coimbra, 1983.
———. Preface. Romanceiro da Ilha de São Jorge. By Manuel da Costa Fontes. Coimbra: U of Coimbra, 1983.
———. Tres calas en el romancero sefardí (Rodas, Jerusalén, Estados Unidos). Madrid: Castalia, 1979.
Armistead, Samuel G., J. H. Silverman and Israel J. Katz. Folk Literature of the Sephardic Jews, Vol. II: Judeo-Spanish Ballads from Oral Tradition, I: Epic Ballads. Berkeley-Los Angeles: U of California P, 1986.
Armistead, Samuel G., J. H. Silverman and Israel J. Katz and K. L. Olson.Folk Literature of the Sephardic Jews, Vol. III: Judeo-Spanish Ballads from Oral Tradition, II: Carolingian Ballads (1): Roncesvalles. Berkeley-Los Angeles: U of California P, 1994.
———. Folk Literature of the Sephardic Jews, Volume IV: Judeo-Spanish Ballads from Oral Tradition, III: Carolingian Ballads (2): Conde Claros. Newark, Delaware: Juan de la Cuesta, 2008.
———. Folk Literature of the Sephardic Jews, Vol. V: Judeo-Spanish Ballads from Oral Tradition: IV: Carolingian Ballads (3), Gaiferos. Newark, Delaware: Juan de la Cuesta, 2006.
Armistead, Samuel G., J. H. Silverman, and I. M. Hassán. Seis romancerillos de cordel judeo-españoles. Madrid: Castalia, 1981.
Armistead, Samuel G.. J. H. Silverman and B. Šljivic-Šimsić. Judeo-Spanish Ballads from Bosnia. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1971.
Caspi, Mishael, ed. Oral Tradition and Hispanic Literature: Essays in Honor of Samuel G. Armistead. New York: Garland, 1995.
Gerli, E. Michael, and Harvey L. Sharrer, eds. Hispanic Medieval Studies in Honor of Samuel G Armistead. Madison, WI: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies, 1992.
Menéndez Pidal, Ramón. Prólogo. Armistead and Silverman, Diez [End Page 20] romances hispánicos 7–10.
The Mississippi River of Song: A Musical Journey Down the Mississippi. Producers John Junkerman and Toshio Murayama. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, 1998. CD.
Rosenstock, Bruce. Folk Literature of the Sephardic Jews: A multimedia archive of ballads and other oral literature in Judeo-Spanish collected from 1957 to 1993 by Samuel G. Armistead (University of California, Davis), the late Joseph H. Silverman (University of California, Santa Cruz), and Israel J. Katz. U of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library. Web. 29 Feb. 2012. <>
Rosenstock, Bruce, and Belén Bistué. “The Folk Literature of the Sephardic Jews Digital Library.” Oral Traditions 28 (forthcoming 2014). [End Page 21]


1. Currently Armistead’s publications number just over 520, including almost 20 book-length monographs. By my count, based on a recently updated CV, some 40% of his over 520 publications were collaborative efforts. For a relatively comprehensive bibliography of Armistead’s publications, the reader can consult his curriculum vitae (available at Gerli and Sharrer include a then up-to-date bibliography in their 1992 festschrift (Hispanic Medieval Studies). Mishael Caspi includes in his homenaje volume, Oral Tradition and Hispanic Literature, a list of the dissertations on which Sam had served (at that point some 44) (xvii–xxi).

2. While relatively much critical attention has been paid to Armistead’s intellectual debt to and formation as a student of Castro, less attention has been paid to the role that Bénichou, who is now known primarily as a scholar of French modernity, played in Sam’s conception of the Hispanic oral tradition. According to Sam the latter debt was great: “Mi maestro, Paul Bénichou has been, without doubt, the most important role model and mentor of my own Hispanic ballad research” (“Spanish Epic and Hispanic Ballad” 93).

3. At least 10 of these studies were published after Silverman’s death in 1989 as Sam continued the task of publishing the results of the fieldwork the two undertook over some 23 years. This number is likely to rise as Karen Olson works with Michael Bolan at Juan de Cuesta to publish some of the remaining volumes that Sam and Joe Silverman had envisioned for the Folk Literature of the Sephardic Jews series.

4. There were far too many informants and collaborators to list in the present piece. For information on the over 200 informants from the Balkans and Morocco with whom Armistead (Silverman and Katz) worked, consult the various volumes of the Folk Literature of the Sephardic Jews series, among other studies; also see the website (, where you can browse informants and hear them sing. Armistead interviewed almost 40 informants in Louisiana (Spanish Tradition in Louisiana). Well more than a third of Armistead’s books and articles, (and, as mentioned a 40% of his total bibliography) were undertaken and published with collaborators.

5. Sam worked with Suzanne Petersen on the Bibliografía del Romancero oral. He co-authored the article “Three Azorean Ballads” with Costa Fontes, as well as writing the preface to two of the latter’s books, the Romanceiro Português dos Estados Unidos, II: Califórnia and the Romanceiro da Ilha de São Jorge. He co-authored Romances judeo-españoles de Tánger in 1977 with Oro A. Librowicz (and Joe Silverman), followed by two articles on the romance “El rey don García”: “El rey don García de Galicia y Portugal en un romance sefardí de Marruecos,” and “El rey don Garcia en el romancero: Un nuevo testimonio,”

6. The first fruit of Armistead and Silverman’s joint project saw the light in 1959, in the article “Dos romances fronterizos.”

7. In order to explore the preceding periods of the Judeo-Spanish ballad tradition, Sam undertook the identification and classification of Menéndez Pidal’s collection of Judeo-Spanish romances, which he published in 1978 as the El romancero judeo-español en el Archivo Menéndez Pidal, thus making this vast collection accessible to scholars. Armistead, Silverman and other scholars such as Oro A. Librowicz and Rina Benmayor were capturing through fieldwork in a late stage of development, what Sam referred to as de “última hora,”

8. Sam thus ensured that his long-time friend and collaborator continued to receive credit for the work they had undertaken and conceived of together—with the result that Silverman published more posthumously than what many of us will in our entire careers while living. The articles co-authored by Armistead and Silverman published after the latter’s death in 1989 include: “Was Calixto’s Grandmother a Nymphomaniac?”; “Nueve adivinanzas.”; “Epopeya y Romancero,”; and “A Judeo-Spanish Prayer.”

9. Armistead was the recipient of numerous awards and prestigious fellowships, including the Antonio de Nebrija Prize in 1999. In 2009 he was elected a member of the Real Academia Española. He served as visiting professor at some seven American universities, including Rutgers (1969–70), Columbia (1970–71), Princeton (1981–82), and the University of California, Irvine (2008). He was given honorary doctorates at both Georgetown (1990) and the University of Alcalá (2010).

10. The libraries of the University of Illinois have provided a permanent site for the digital Folk Literature of the Sephardic Jews and they will maintain it for the forseeable future (Rosenstock and Bistué). Special thanks to Karen Olson, Sam’s collaborator and expert editor, who provided invaluable information concerning the status of Sam’s projects in progress and the fate of his collections and library and for providing the photo of Sam. Additional thanks to Bruce Rosenstock for updating me on the virtual Folk Literature of the Sephardic Jews project, and to the several other colleagues, friends and collaborators who assisted with anecdotes and information of all kinds that have in various ways been included in this brief remembrance.